GAME NOTES: A pair of teams tied for fourth place in the Big Sky Conference standings get together at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center on Thursday night, as North Dakota plays host to the Sacramento State Hornets.
North Dakota, which has a record of 15-14 on Valentine's Day over the years, has managed to battle back from a weak start to the league slate and is now an even 7-7, which is where the Hornets are at the moment as well. However, over the weekend UND was taken out by mighty Montana on the road in a 78-58 final.
As for the Hornets, they have won two straight and four of their last six contests, thanks to a 77-71 victory over Portland State at home last Saturday. Sacramento State is kicking off a three-game road trip with this contest, and has just two more home dates on the regular-season schedule versus Weber State and Idaho State in a couple of weeks.
The Hornets lead the all-time series, 2-1, thanks to a 67-58 win back in January at home.
Mikh McKinney exploded for a game-high 30 points against the Vikings over the weekend, hitting 13-of-18 shots from the floor as Sacramento shot a collective 51.7 percent from the field and suffered a mere four turnovers. Joe Eberhard chimed in with 12 points and Konner Veteto accounted for 10 and seven boards for the squad as well.
McKinney is now up to 14.4 ppg during his 14-game conference run, shooting an impressive 43.2 percent from beyond the arc and close to 80 percent at the free-throw line. Veteto checks in with 10.4 ppg and a team-best 5.9 rpg as one of three players clearing at least five rebounds per game against Big Sky foes. Not afraid to get physical, the Hornets have scored 70 more points at the charity stripe than league opponents at this stage.
There hasn't been a single team in the Big Sky that has had success against Montana this season, and UND was no exception last weekend when the visitors to Dahlberg Arena in Missoula came up with almost as many turnovers (22) as field goals (23). Troy Huff was responsible for a game-high 23 points as he knocked down 11-of-20 shots from the field, and yet, with as much as he handled the ball he was one of only two players that saw action for UND that wasn't charged with a turnover. Jamal Webb chipped in another 14 points and seven boards.
Huff, who has scored in double figures in all but one game this season, has hit for at least 21 in six of the last seven outings overall, which is why he is now scoring 18.9 ppg and is up to 19.8 ppg in league play. Aaron Anderson (15.0 ppg) and Webb (10.0 ppg) are the other active double-digit scorers for the group at the moment as they generate a healthy 68.5 ppg in conference action.
As long as Huff can find clear shot attempts and the hosts can keep their mistakes to a minimum, there's no reason to think UND can't come up with the win.
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